OECD, GIDRM: “The better you get at managing risks, the better people will be able to develop”

In a session entitled “Climate Resilience and Disaster Risk Management in Asian Cities,” the OECD came together with the Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management (GIDRM) at the Cities & Regions Pavilion at COP21 to discuss Climate Resilience in the context of Asian Cities.

The session, which considered key policy challenges to the promotion of climate resilience and disaster risk management, was introduced by Tadashi Matsumoto (Regional Development Policy, OECD) and moderated by Martin Dirr (GIDRM). Rolf Alter (Director for Public Governance and Territorial Development, OECD) opened the session by pointing out that “the better you get at managing risks, the better people will be able to develop”. He also stated that “cities will be hit again and again by shocks, whether natural disasters or inflows of people”, and that “being resilient means having the capacity to come back fast”.

Asian cities are characterized by rapid and continuous urbanization on an unprecedented scale, with rapid economic growth and rapidly increasing motorization. As a result, cities in Asia have seen escalating greenhouse gas emissions, sprawling urban development and local environmental impacts, often accompanied by income disparities, and a widening gap in education levels and job opportunities across the urban Population.

Steve Gawler (Regional Director, ICLEI Oceania) showed how this was the case in Bandung, Indonesia. As a rapidly growing city, Bandung has problems with housing and infrastructure, and the uncontrolled development leaves impoverished areas particularly vulnerable. For example, during the dry season there are 20-30 house fires per day. Gawler explained that the city had previously relied on the provincial disaster response mechanisms. However, this does not work when disasters are widespread, as resources are inadequate at a provincial level. To change this, Gawler emphasized the need for strong political leadership to overcome silo thinking, as exemplified in Bandung’s current mayor, Ridwan Kamil. The change must also be driven by pledges made to the community.

Ching-hui Lai (Acting Director, ICLEI Knowledge Capacity Center, Kaohsiung) highlighted how challenges for implementing resilience measures in Asia include governance efficiency, capacity in the public sector, awareness raising and finance. She highlighted the positive example of Pingtung (Chinese Taipei), where a typhoon damaged large amounts of farmland. The city is responding with a transformative Agrisolar project, which involves the provision of solar panels to farmers. The panels generate energy for farms and provide shade to grow coffee and Chinese herbs.

In Brazil, Mayor Marcio Lacerda of Belo Horizonte received the UN Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction, and he demonstrated how his city has been responding to the key elements of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (also known as the Hyogo Framework for Action – HFA 2) – an agreement which recognizes that responsibility for disaster risk reduction should be shared with a range of non-state actors including local government and the private sector. The city of Belo Horizonte won the Sasakawa award for building dams to reduce the risk of flooding, and initiating the practice of gathering representatives of all municipal bodies every Monday to prepare for possible risks.

The session showed that Asian cities face specific challenges in developing resilience and responding to disasters. These challenges are social and economic as well as geographic. While measures should always be adapted to their specific context, it is clear that to develop resilience, cities require innovation, strong leadership, and effective cross-departmental coordination to pre-empt and deal with disasters. As the experiences of Bandung and Belo Horizonte show, this kind of integration and transformation may be developed in different ways –  through the political will of mayors and city leaders or through institutional, bureaucratic arrangements.

Building such capacity in public administrations is also important to be able to effectively “use the knowledge, innovation and responsiveness of communities”, as in Belo Horizonte where there are around 60 groups involving 700 people, working on a voluntary basis in the area of flood risk prevention, early warning and emergency response. The session thus ended with a reminder that in addressing climate change “we are all volunteers”, and we must all be activists!

About the Organizers

The GIDRM was founded by the German Government and is led by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to strengthen the German contribution to improved disaster risk management worldwide.

The OECD promotes policies that improve the economic and social wellbeing of people around the world. It provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems, and works with governments to understand what drives economic, social and environmental Change.

More information

This blog post was developed by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability in collaboration with OECD and GIDRM.


Featured Image of Bandung courtesy of Sabung.hamster via Wikimedia.